NYCC was successful with a bid for funding from central
government. The sum is £4.6 million, and it is to pay for
improvements to junctions on Otley Road, 'smart' traffic lights,
and better pedestrian crossings, as well as the cycle route. It is
called the West
Harrogate improvement package.
The cycle route is much needed. It is a short distance from
the residential areas here into town - easily done in a very few
minutes by bike. At the moment, people are expected to put their
lives in danger by mixing with heavy traffic, which can't be
The cycle route must be safe, with physical protection from
The cycle route must be convenient. That means it should be
continuous - there is no place for 'end of route' signs in the
middle of routes because the council can't work out how to do a
particular section. It also means it must have priority over
side roads and driveways: if you make it give way to motorised
traffic on every occasion, it will be useless, people who
already ride bikes won't use it, it won't attract any new
cyclists, and therefore won't do anything to increase active
travel and reduce congestion.
It should be part of a complete network. The main connecting
route into and out of the town centre is Beech Grove,
which is a bad cycle route. A cycle-friendly route, either on
Beech Grove or across the Stray, needs to be created - not in 5
or 10 years' time, but urgently.
So-called smart traffic lights should not be an excuse for
giving even more priority to vehicles. People on foot should be
the first priority. Otley Road is a barrier to walking, because
it has few crossings, and people are made to wait for an
unconscionable length of time before they are allowed to cross.
Lights should turn green for pedestrians as soon as they press
the button, unless someone has just crossed. Also, people should
be given a reasonable amount of time to cross, not made to
scurry over the road as though they are an afterthought and a
A pedestrian and cycle crossing is needed where the corner of
West Park Stray meets Otley Road, by Beech Grove.
In August 2017, Hedgehog
Cycling reported that the county council had made a bid for
DfT funding for, amongst other things, junction improvements and the
segregated cycle track.
On 30th November 2017, the Harrogate
Advertiser reported that the bid was successful. Some work was
due to begin in March 2018, and the creation of the cycle track was
scheduled for July 2018. No work appears to have started at the time
of writing (mid-June 2018).
The Association is right to be protective of the Stray.
Negotiations should lead to a satisfactory compromise, ensuring that
the cycle route can be built, and there is no net loss of Stray
A segregated cycle route on Otley Road is essential.
Otley Road segregated cycle route: why it is essential
People do use Otley Road on bikes, but my observation is that about
half of them find sharing the main carriageway with traffic too
hostile an environment, and choose to ride along the pavement
instead. If all drivers followed rule 163 of the
Highway Code when overtaking, there would be no problem, but
they do not. In fact, a Highway Code overtake is a rarity on Otley
Road, with most drivers choosing to pass leaving much less space.
Harrogate suffers from congestion problems. People should have a
genuine choice about whether to drive and sit in (and worsen) the
traffic jams, or whether to use a bike for short distances around
town. At the moment too many people don't feel safe cycling, so it
is not an option for them.
The air quality on Otley Road is unacceptably poor. I know this
from walking on the pavement, and breathing the traffic exhaust
fumes. I don't know exactly how bad the air pollution is, because
Harrogate BC do not measure it - they say that most of the houses
are set back a bit, so they don't have to carry out measurements.
We know that diesel exhaust fumes in particular are very damaging
to our health. The fumes are damaging the health of people in the
area, including the pupils breathing them in on the way to the
schools on and near Otley Road. A safe bike route will at least give
people a choice about whether to add to the pollution or not.
Consideration should also be given as to whether to follow the
example of London and exclude the most polluting vehicles from the
centre of town.
segregated cycle route: it must be safe and convenient
Like the rest of the UK, Harrogate has more than enough poor
quality, non user-friendly 'cycle infrastructure', which is often
ignored by people who already cycle, and does not attract new
cyclists. We're even building
new sub-standard cycle routes now.
I'm not going to go into all the factors that make or break cycle
infrastructure, but while the Otley Road route is still being
planned, and before mistakes are set in concrete, I would like to
say, 'give it priority over side roads'.
If you build a route that gives way to every side road, you may as
well not bother. It's just the same as riding on the pavement. The
people who currently ride on the pavement will use the cycle track,
and everyone else will ignore it.
When cycling, you want a bit of continuity - to be able to get
going and keep going, not stop at every side road. If you're going
straight on, you should have priority over side roads; if you're
turning, give way. It's not asking for special treatment - just for
the same priority rules as for vehicles. (While we're about it, we
could give the pavement priority over turning vehicles at side
roads, as in the photo above).
The alternative is that vehicles on Otley Road (and any bikes that
use the road) have priority over side roads, but the bike route
doesn't. The message would be: if you're in a car, you're important,
if you're on a bike, you're not. It won't encourage people to use
the bike route, and won't attract more cyclists.
To be clear, if the bike route is to give way to all the
side roads, it will be a waste of time, and personally I
won't support it or use it. Let's hope that's not the case.
A poll of 2,000 British adults for Cycling UK reveals the top
reasons why more people don't cycle. They include sharing the road
with large vehicles and close passes. What would encourage more
people to ride bikes? Find out about the
Cycling UK poll.
The Campaign for Rural England have shown that new road projects
generate extra traffic - over and above the increases which would
have happened otherwise. Their report is based on Highways England
data. This is relevant to the bypass which the county council is
seeking to impose on Harrogate & Knaresborough. Read about the
Impact of Roads report.